Play on black Manchester boxer exposes past racism in Boxing

 Play on black Manchester boxer exposes past racism in boxing world

AWARD-WINNING play Len Johnson Fighter returns 11-12 May at The Kings Arms Salford and 20-21 May at The Octagon Theatre Bolton.

 

With a brand new score by Mark Simpson, Len Johnson Fighter, written by Colin Connor, sold out every night during the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2014.

 

Inspired by Michael Herbert’s book Never Counted Out and the Len Johnson collection at the Working Class Movement Museum in Salford, the play tells the story of the greatest British middleweight boxer never to be champion.

 

Denied the opportunity to fight for the British title because he was black  (the "colour bar" was not lifted in the UK until 1948) this extraordinary man continued his fight against discrimination throughout his career and after his retirement from the ring.

 

In 1946, together with his friends and comrades Wilf Charles and Syd Booth they formed "The New International Society". They campaigned for numerous causes at home and abroad.

 

They also became great friends with the American singer and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (played by Salim Sai), who sang for free in front of 20,000 people in Manchester’s Moss Side in 1949.

 

It is a tale of a true working class hero, who fought for all, regardless of race or creed.

 

When the US State department denied Robeson a passport for his criticism of American politics and inequality, Len and the New International Society supported the “Let Robeson Sing” campaign.

 

Directed by Nick Birchill, Len Johnson Fighter questions and exposes the depths of racism inherent in British society. It is a tale of a true working class hero, who fought for all, regardless of race or creed.

 

Jarreau Benjamin, who was nominated for a Manchester Theatre Award for his portrayal of Len, said: “I’m so passionate about all the things he was fighting for. He was a boxer and he went on to do some amazing things. I’m really glad to be a part of it. It is really emotional.”

 

The cast comprises Jarreau Benjamin, Alastair Gillies, Richard Patterson, Matt Lanigan, Sarah Burrill and Katie McArdle.

 

Musical Director/Composer Mark Simpson is originally from Salford and based in Manchester. Mark has used themes from the early 20th century to create an original score that reflects a region afflicted by two world wars and their aftermath.

 

Influenced by the Great American composers, but especially Gershwin, Mark has adapted his score to further engage the audience in both live performances and recorded music.

 

This phenomenal production of Len Johnson Fighter is not to be missed.

 

Rising Moon Productions includes the directors and producer of The Best, Jack Rosenthal’s play on the legendary footballer George Best, winner of the Manchester Theatre Award for Best Fringe Production 2013.

 

They also presented Meanwhile, gaining rave five-star reviews for sell-out shows at the 2013 Manchester Fringe.

 

www.kingsarmssalford.co.uk | www.octagonbolton.co.uk

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